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Friday, December 30.
Having skirmished nearly all the way with flying parties of Roddy's cavalry, who attempted to delay us by burning a bridge over Town Creek, on the Bainbridge road, and by some show of holding the ford of the same stream on the main Tuscumbia road, most of the latter force drifted in squads southward towards the mountains; the remainder, with General Roddy, taking the roads to Tuscumbia and Florence.

Towards dark a new force appeared in our front, on the Tuscumbia road, believed to be Armstrong's brigade, which I afterwards learned definitely, had been sent back by Forrest from Barlow Station, to reinforce Roddy and protect General Hood's trains.

At Leighton I learned that Hood had commenced crossing the river at Bainbridge on Sunday morning, and finished on Tuesday evening, marching at once towards Corinth. This railroad had never been in operation east of Cane Creek, three miles west of Tuscumbia. I also learned that the pontoon bridge had been taken up on Tuesday night and Wednesday morning, and that the entire pontoon train, of two hundred wagons, had passed through Leighton on Thursday, and camped at Lagrange the same night, and that it was bound for Columbus, Mississippi, with a comparatively small guard.

Roddy's (so-called) division of cavalry had apparently been relied upon to prevent any advance of our forces, until the train could get to a safe distance; but his men had become so demoralized by their successive defeats, that we could afford to disregard him. Having communicated with Major-General Steedman, who left me free to make the expedition or not, as I might deem best, I started from Leighton before daylight on Saturday morning, December thirty-first, taking a trail which enabled us to avoid Armstrong's force and to get in the rear of a portion of Roddy's command at Lagrange, where we captured Colonel Jim Warren, of the Tenth Alabama cavalry, and some other prisoners.

About one P. M. we passed through Russelville, where we encountered another portion of Roddy's force, which had just arrived from Tuscumbia, and drove it out on the Tuscumbia road, while we kept on the Cotton Gin or Bull Mountain road, after the train.

Some attempt was made to delay us by burning a bridge over Cedar Creek, but we found a ford, and caught up with the rear of the pontoon train at dark, ten miles beyond Russelville.

We met no resistance, and our advanced guard rode through to the front of the train, which extended for five miles, and consisted of seventy-eight pontoon-boats and about two hundred wagons, with all the necessary accoutrements and material, engineering instruments, etc.; all the mules and oxen, except what the pontoniers and teamsters were able to cut loose and side off, were standing hitched to the wagons. Three boats had been set fire to, but so carelessly that no damage had been done.

We captured a few prisoners, and went into camp at about the centre of the train, fed our horses, and I then started the entire command out in either direction to burn the train, which was done in the most thorough manner, and occupied till three A. M. I should have been glad to bring the pontoon train, which was built at Atlanta last winter, and was an exceedingly well-appointed one, back to our lines; but the condition of the mules, the mountainous character of the country, and the presence, in our rear, of a force of the enemy's cavalry, estimated at three times our own strength, prevented.

I had also learned from a negro servant of Captain Cobb, of the Engineers, who commanded the train, that a large supply train of General Hood's, bound from Barton Station to Tuscumbia, was ahead.

Early next morning (Sunday) I pushed on through Nauvoo, taking the Aberdeen road, which I knew would flank the train.

I led a detachment from near Bexar across by a trail to head the train on the Cotton Gin road, and sent another, under Lieutenant-Colonel Lamborn. to follow it, and by ten P. M. had surprised it in camp a few miles over the State line, in Itawamba county, Mississippi. It consisted of one hundred and ten (110) wagons, and over five hundred mules. We burned the wagons, shot or sabred all the mules we could not lead off or use to mount prisoners, and started back. In one of the wagons was Colonel McCrosky, of Hood's infantry, who had been badly wounded at Franklin. I left a tent with him, some stores, and one of the prisoners to take care of him; about twenty of the teamsters were colored United States soldiers of the garrison captured by Hood at Dalton — these came back with us.

We returned via Tollgate and the old Military and Hackleburg roads, capturing an ambulance, with its guard, on the way, to within twenty-five miles south of Russelville, when I found that Roddy's force, and the so-called brigades of Biffles and Russel were already stationed in our front at Bear Creek, and on the Biler road towards Moulton, to retard us, while Armstrong was reported as being in pursuit.

The country was very difficult and rugged, with few roads or trails, and scarcely any forage; but we evaded, by a night march of twenty-three miles, all the forces of the enemy except Colonel Russel, whom we attacked unexpectedly on the Moulton and Tuscaloosa road, twelve miles east of Thornhill. On Wednesday noon Lieutenant-Colonel Prosser, having [103] the advance, routed him so speedily and completely that he did not delay our march twenty minutes, and this only to pick up prisoners and burn his five wagons, including his headquarter wagons, out of which we got all the brigade and other official papers. We had but a few hours previously captured, with its guard of three men, a small mail bound for Tuscaloosa.

About fifty or seventy-five conscripts from both sides of the Tennessee river, that Russel was hustling off to Tuscaloosa, were released by our attack; also eight Indiana soldiers, captured by Russel near Decatur.

We then continued our march unmolested, by way of Mount Hope, towards Leighton; but learning, when within ten miles of that place, that all our troops had returned to Decatur, we came on by easy marches to the same post, reaching it on Friday evening, sixth instant.

The whole distance marched, from the time of leaving Decatur, nine days previously, was two hundred and sixty-five; and about four hundred miles, from the time of leaving Chattanooga, two weeks and three days previous.

My entire command numbered less than six hundred (600) men, consisting of the Fifteenth Pennsylvania (Anderson) cavalry, commanded by Lieutenant-Colonel Charles B. Lamborn, and detachments of the Second Tennessee, and Tenth, Twelfth and Thirteenth Indiana cavalry, commanded by Lieutenant-Colonel William F. Prosser.

To these officers, and all those under them, much credit is due for their gallantry and energy, as well as to all their men, for the dash and courage with which they attacked any enemy that appeared, and for the patient manner in which they bore, on the most scanty rations, the severe fatigue of this expedition.

I desire particularly to recommend for honorable mention in general orders, Sergeant Arthur P. Lyon, of Company A, of the Anderson cavalry, for repeated acts of marked bravery during this short campaign-including the capture of two pieces of artillery, which fell into his hands on the night of December twenty-eight, six miles from Decatur, on the Courtland road, by a daring charge of our advanced guard of fifteen men, which he led on this occasion.

We took about one hundred and fifty prisoners after leaving Leighton, including two colonels (one of whom was left in consequence of his wounds), two captains and six lieutenants and destroyed, in all, between seven hundred and fifty and one thousand stand of arms, and captured a considerable number of pistols.

Our entire loss, one man killed and two wounded--all (of Lieutenant-Colonel Prosser's command) in the charge on Russel's force.

The whole of Forrest's cavalry, except Armstrong's brigade, was at Okalona, Mississippi, within one day's march of us when the supply train was captured. He had been sent there as soon as he crossed at Bainbridge on Tuesday evening, to repel our cavalry from Memphis, who had destroyed the railroad for twenty miles near and above Okalona.

I do not think General Hood brought across the Tennessee river, at Bainbridge, more than twelve thousand infantry and thirty-five pieces of artillery.

I am, very respectfully

Your obedient servant,

Wm. J. Palmer, Colonel, commanding. S. B. Moe, Major and Assistant Adjutant-General.

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H. Roddy (14)
J. B. Hood (12)
Russel (10)
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